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Can the First Step Act benefit you?

When the federal government enacted the First Step Act, many who were in prison for non-violent crimes rejoiced along with their families. The First Step Act promotes long-overdue reforms in the criminal justice system, including adopting common sense sentencing guidelines and more appropriate options for those convicted of drug-related offenses.

If you are currently serving time in a federal prison, you may wish to obtain more information about the FSA. To be considered for eligibility, you must take certain steps. Having a legal advocate guiding you through these steps may improve your chances of success.

What are the advantages of the FSA?

This bipartisan law aims to reduce the population of federal prisons, lower the rates of recidivism, and right the wrongs of unjust and unreasonable sentences. If you qualify for this program, you may begin earning good time credits that can reduce your time in prison. You may also receive an assessment that can help advocates develop a program to meet your needs. For example, you may benefit from drug counseling, education or skill development that will reduce your chances of ending up back in prison.

The FSA recognizes the burdens a family member’s incarceration puts on loved ones. Therefore, the law requires the Board of Prisons to confine inmates as close to their families as possible, usually within 500 miles. If you are elderly or suffering from a terminal illness, you may qualify for compassionate release to home confinement.

Who qualifies for the FSA?

Many different groups of people may qualify for different aspects of the FSA, for example:

  • Minors: Prison authorities may no longer confine juveniles to solitary confinement.
  • Women: Prison authorities and U.S. Marshals may not use restraints when dealing with pregnant inmates. Additionally, prisons must provide quality sanitary supplies for women.
  • Mentally ill: The FSA requires prison officials and employees to obtain training for dealing with incidents involving inmates with mental health issues or cognitive deficits.
  • Drug offenders: Those sentenced to long terms for non-violent drug crimes may see their mandatory sentences reduced.

Those who may not be eligible for many of the benefits of the FSA include, among others, inmates convicted of violent crimes, human trafficking, certain sex crimes, repeat felony offenses and certain drug crimes, such as those involving fentanyl or methamphetamine. However, no matter the crimes with which you are convicted, you may benefit from discussing your case with a South Carolina attorney who can provide a complete evaluation and guidance for taking advantage of every element of the FSA that applies to your circumstances.


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